AN ARTIST’S JOURNAL where family, friends and mysterious strangers can see my paintings as they’re created, and where I’m liable to write on just about anything – the joy of creating art; life in the country; and, as a follower of Christ, aspiring to glorify God in all I do.
And yes, I’m painting this as a shameless and not-at-all-subtle marketing ploy targeting any LSU or Grambling (or Auburn perhaps?) alum and/or fans who may be prowling around the Red River Revel arts festival in a couple of weeks ... And I’m having fun doing it, too!
Very often it happens that when I’m planning a composition (especially landscapes), my reference photo serves as a springboard rather than strictly a map. The paintings that result usually end up being the ones I like best when they’re finished. They’re definitely my favorites to paint!
My reference photo for this painting was a composite of about three photos I took one day on the way to town. (And before you start yelling at me for taking photos while driving, it just so happens that – this time! – Paul was behind the wheel whilst I wielded my trusty Canon EOS 7D Mark II.)
The main part that made me want to paint this was the billowy clouds. And I wanted a composition that would emphasize the sweep of the clouds up from the horizon. I exaggerated the curve of the road, the angle of the horizon and the height of the crest of the hill in the foreground to get the effect I wanted.
It wasn’t my intention at the start to make the road into a dirt road, but by the time the underpainting was finished – and going totally against my own advice when I caution my students against falling so much in love with the underpainting that you don’t push the painting to an even more glorious destination – I had REALLY fallen hopelessly head over heels with all those great reds and oranges, so red Louisiana dirt the roads became.
Hey, I think I just came up with a new maxim. Here, I’ll make it big and colorful and put it in italics so it has more authority:
Only September, but I’m already looking forward to when these little drops of sunshine appear in our yard in February. A lot of fun this morning painting the shadows with fauve-a-fistic colors. And now that my color-loving juices are flowing, it’s back to the easel to work on something a bit larger ...
Our Bailey, sometimes grumpy, but always as beautiful as a southern belle. Really she’s hanging out on the back porch, but I imagine she would refer to it as “lounging on the veranda.”
Always a joy to paint her, with all her interesting markings. Here are the progress photos:
First I transferred my drawing to my panel with graphite transfer paper. A hint to keep the drawing from smudging and graying my paint: I paint over the entire drawing with a mixture of titanium white acrylic and acrylic glazing medium. The medium makes the white transparent so I can still see my drawing, and after it dries, that pesky graphite is sealed in place under a layer of paint.
Next I blocked the painting in, using only ultramarine. One of my very favorite compositional elements is a lost edge. Bailey’s markings and whiskers gave me plenty to play with!
After the first layer is dry, I add a glaze of the ultramarine on Bailey and a glaze of cobalt turquoise over the flowerpot in the background. (Currently I’m using Liquitex acrylic Gloss Medium & Varnish mixed with the paint to make my glazes.)With a damp paper towel, I gently "lift" some of the color from what will be the lightest areas of the painting.
Next, I added an Indian yellow glaze in those lightest areas. I wanted the glaze to be nice and yellow, so I mixed only a tiny amount of the medium to the paint.
Now things are starting to get FUN! I added a very transparent glaze of pyrrole red over the turquoise of the background flowerpot, giving me a nice warm stone color; another layer of ultramarine glaze and then quinacridone fuchsia glaze to the dark areas of Bailey; and the pyrrole red glaze to those light areas, making them a beautiful sunset orange.
Usually at this point I stop and eat lunch, or work on another painting, or fold some clean laundry or take a little walk for thirty minutes or so, to make sure the acrylic underpainting is good and dry before I start with the oils!
I knew I wanted to leave some of the underpainting showing in the darkest areas of the finished painting, so I at this stage I painted the light areas of her face in first, to give me an idea of where I could leave that vivid underpainting uncovered and still achieve the overall look I wanted.
Notice how the lights are not all the same, some are warm (cadmium orange or red mixed with white) and some are cool (blues or greens mixed with the white.
At this point I’m really getting a sense of what the finished look will be. I start adding some of the background colors to help me make color decisions for Bailey’s coat. For example, after I added the green leaves near the top of the painting, I decided to echo that in oh-so-selective places in her fur, near the bottom of the picture. Also, to make her a little less grumpy, I added the light-colored downward stroke at the outside top of each eye, which look kind of like an eyelashes or a little eye whisker. You can also see by comparing the finished photo below with this one that I changed the shape of the top edge of her right eye (her right, not ours) ever so subtly – I took out the little dip right above the pupil. This has the effect of very slightly softening her expression.
Note: I hardly ever use black on my palette these days; those dark areas in the background are a mixture of Caribbean blue, quinacridone rose and veridian green.
Comparing this photo with the one above, you can see that I made her eyes a bit lighter and glassier (remember that eyes are very reflective, and so will have a lot of different colors which reflect the surroundings).
I also noticed that her mouth wasn’t quite right. (Actually, it was my sister the former veterinary tech and animal artist herself who brought this to my attention. I sent her this progress pic and she texted back that it looked like Bailey was pursing her lips.) After studying my reference photo for a few seconds I saw that the little line under the tip of Bailey’s nose was a smidge too long. Easy correction!
When the painting is finished, I use a plastic mechanical pencil with the lead screwed all the way down inside the tip, as a stylus to scratch my signature in the paint. And heeeeeere’s Bailey!
3½ x 2½ inches • oil on archival Ampersand EncausticbordTM
private collection • Shreveport, Louisiana
I love doing these little ACEO’s (Art Card Editions & Originals) in between larger paintings I’m doing in preparation for the Red River Revel arts festival in just three weeks. Painting in this small size is a reminder that simplification of my subject along with the bold colors I love can make a big impact, even on this small scale!
This morning I’m doing some deep housekeeping and organizing in my studio. The “deep” in front of the “housekeeping” means it involves pulling EVERYTHING out of drawers, boxes and shelves, taking inventory, throwing out or giving away about a third, gathering into one place everything I’ll need for the Red River Revel in October, and then putting everything back in a neat and organized manner.
I try to do this about twice a year. The two main benefits are:
(1) sometimes I find things I didn’t know I had, but I can really use, like the half-full bottle of Turpenoid Natural I just found in back of some bubble wrap on a top shelf (don’t ask me how it got there, but now I can cross “Turpenoid” off my shopping list!), or the twenty-three dollars stashed in last year’s Revel pouch (now I can get that tube of Vasari Indian Yellow I’ve had my eye on, which just happens to be on sale right now – yay!)
(2) when I’m done I once again have a neat and inspiring space in which to paint!
Meanwhile, Moustachio – lounging atop a stack of magazines in his favorite chair, which has been temporarily scooted out to the front porch with a bunch of other stuff – is definitely NOT into the whole thing.